Past and Present: Letters about traction engines and threshers
A 40 HP Case steam road roller takes a break during its showing at the 2006 Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag, Sept. 1-4, 2006. An article about Case steam rollers inspired readers to share their knowledge about the company's steam rollers.
Regular contributor Robert T. Rhode (e-mail: email@example.com) and Raymond L. Drake (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) write in this issue to share what they’ve learned about production data on Case steam rollers. Bob and Ray write:
We would like to compliment Bill Vossler on his fine article “A Tale of Two Steam Road Rollers” in the Winter 2007 issue of Steam Traction.
When we were doing our research for our book, Classic American Steamrollers 1871-1935 Photo Archive, we viewed as many extant rollers as possible and discovered major discrepancies between the known lists of production figures of Case steam rollers. All too often, we would find a Case roller, and, when we compared the serial number of this machine to several of the published production lists available, there was no correlation between the two.
For instance, we took the serial number of a known 40 HP Case roller, and, at the time we found it on one of the lists, we discovered that it was erroneously cataloged as a 40 HP traction engine. We are happy to inform fellow steam preservationists that at least one list has no inaccuracies that we were able to find, and it was first published by David Erb, former editor of Old Abe’s News. We recommend to steam aficionados trying to identify Case steam rollers that this is the list they should consider to be the final authority. See the production statistics in "Case Steam Roller Production," directly below this writing, which is a general overview of Case roller production figures from our book.
According to the figures, Case built 678 10-ton steam rollers and 29 12-ton rollers, for a combined total of 707 steam rollers.
We always enjoy hearing from other road roller enthusiasts, and we would like to encourage our fellow preservationists to contact us with any information they have and to ask any questions that may arise. We have found that many preservationists have in their collections photos of unknown or unidentified road rollers. We want to state that we are always happy to assist in identifying these machines.
The first 10-ton Case steam roller was serial no. 15901, built in 1905. The first 12-ton roller appeared as serial no. 20649 in 1908. The 10-ton size proved most popular, as shown by annual production statistics:
1905: 9 10-ton steam rollers
1906: 40 10-ton steam rollers
1907: 25 10-ton steam rollers
1908: 75 10-ton steam rollers; 3 12-ton rollers
1909: 7 12-ton steam rollers
1910: 146 10-ton steam rollers
1911: 126 10-ton steam rollers
1914: 50 10-ton steam rollers
1915: 51 10-ton steam rollers
1917: 25 10-ton steam rollers
1918: 4 10-ton steam rollers
1919: 46 10-ton steam rollers
1920: 17 10-ton steam rollers; 8 12-ton rollers
1921: 40 10-ton steam rollers; 10 12-ton rollers
1923: 24 10-ton steam rollers; 1 12-ton roller
John Shepherd, 606 W. Chestnut St., Bloomfield, IA 52537, passed along some photos for our readers to enjoy.
Photo #1, the third photo found in the image gallery, was taken in 1914 at Hunter’s farm, north of Ashgrove, Iowa. John’s granddad, also John Shepherd, bought two sawmills at the time. This one is an Ottumwa Iron Works built in 1885. Pictured are Irvin Shepherd (John’s uncle) standing on a Stevens 16 HP engine and W.C. Shepherd, John’s dad, to the right of the saw standing by the horses.
Photo #2, the next photo, is on Harve Roberts’ farm, near Ashgrove, in 1907. (John notes that Ashgrove is no longer on the map!) The engine is a Stevens 16 HP with a Case separator. It’s likely this is the same 16 HP Stevens shown in Photo #1.
Photo #3 is a circa 1918 22 HP Wood Bros. engine, no. 426. John once owned the engine, but it is now owned by Tom Nichols, Eldon, Iowa. John tells us that Bud Wagner owned the engine before he did and before Bud was Helen Wood. Helen was the daughter of one of the Wood Bros.’ founders.
Photo #4 shows John operating his 5/8-scale Wood Bros. engine he built. John notes he was 80 years old when he completed the replica.
John is shown in Photo #5 with the scale Wood Bros. engine. Measurements for the scale model were taken from Tom’s full-size engine. This was the first day the scale model engine ran on steam, Aug. 3, 2005. That same year, the Wood Bros. scale pulled 25 HP on the belt at the Midwest (Iowa) Old Threshers Reunion.
Photo #6: Pictured (from left) are Chris Jowett, Tom Nichols and Mike Parker with John’s scale engine. Tom is making adjustments to the scale Wood Bros. engine.
Buster Herrington, P.O. Box 1060, Hollywood, SC 29449; (843) 889-3745 (evenings); (843) 889-2248, ext. 3 (e-mail: email@example.com), is looking for information on Geiser Mfg. Co (Peerless). Buster writes:
I would like to find a list of serial numbers and dates of manufacture for Geiser traction engines. Does anyone list these on the Internet?
Just a note to say thanks for such a nice magazine. I am a new subscriber and just finished reading my first issue. The article on the “Joyland 65” was nicely done, and definitely portrays the dedication and enthusiasm of the steam community. I e-mailed Jeff Detwiler to compliment him on a job well done. I purchased a Frick traction engine last year – it is an 8-1/2-by-10-inch. Hopefully I will get to start the restoration process in the next couple of weeks. Anyway, thanks again for the great magazine. I am already looking forward to the next issue.
John Cole, P.O. Box 737, Sioux Lookout, ONT Canada P8T 1B1; (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), has written to request some family history. John writes:
This request may seem a bit odd since it is not directly related to the magazine. I’m looking for information regarding Louis Holt.
He is mentioned in the article “A Day in my Days,” written by W.F. Steuck (published in Iron-Men Album, November/December 1952, page 13). Louis is my great-uncle and, from recollection, Bill Johnson is my uncle’s brother-in-law. I remember going to my Uncle Louie’s place as a youngster and marveling over all of the many steam engines and other antiques he and my aunt Norma had kept on their farm. The most intriguing to me was the “29” fire engine and the steam-driven pipe organ he kept in his barn. I know he used to display his pride and joy steamers at various agricultural fairs.
I believe Louis and Bill, both of Burford, Ontario, Canada, owned a steam engine company – but I know very little about that side of the story.
Anyway, I am working on the Holt family tree (Louis is my grandmother’s brother), and eventually the family history, and thought you may have some information about my uncle that you would be willing to provide. I would appreciate any information and photos you have and are willing to send.Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.
Editor’s note: Maybe some of our Steam Traction reader will be able to assist John. It would be interesting to know what steam engine company the Holts owned. Please note, although the Steam Traction archive has the photo in question within the W.F. Steuck article, it is actually separate from that article. (You can see the photo by browsing the image gallery.)
The photo caption read: “Bill Johnson of Burford, Ontario, Canada, sends this picture and writes as follows, ‘It struck me that this might be an interesting picture for the ALBUM. It would be of special interest to the Canadian subscribers. The engine is a 20 hp. ‘Waterloo’ owned by Louis Holt of R.R. 2, Burford, Ontario, Canada. The engineers are Wally Wilkins and Bill Johnson. The engine has low and high gears and is good for 8 to 10 miles per hour. We are all subscribers to the ALBUM and think it’s great.’”
Jack Norbeck, Norbeck Research, 117 N. Ruch St., Coplay, PA 18037; (610) 262-8779, exhibits the history of steam by posting information at various libraries. Jack tells us the exhibit was displayed at nine libraries in 2006. Browse through the image gallery to find a couple of images of his exhibit display.
John Babcock, 700 Miller Road, Plainwell, MI 49080; (269) 685-8788, writes: In the Winter 2007 Steam Traction, on page 6, Mix Photo #1, the unidentified man in the photo taken at the steam show in Milton, Ontario, Canada, is Ken Crawley. He fired Harry’s engine at the sawmill for many years.
Loren Schutt, 1278 180th St., Wheatland, IA 52777-9622, has some comments on the Winter 2007 issue. Loren writes:
I am assuming that Steam Traction tries to convey true and correct information. In the Winter 2007 issue there were some apparent errors.
On page 5, “Girard Photo #6” claims to be “An 1879 Daisy grain reaper.” In fact, it is a photo of a Farmall M pulling a grain binder. There were grain binders in 1879, but this one looks to be later. It is not a Daisy grain reaper. To see what a reaper looks like, see 150 Years of International Harvester, pages 240-241, by C.H. Wendel.
On page 29, did you really want to say, “The New Huber 30 HP, built in 1910, no. 9309, is the only known double-cylinder engine?” I think you would agree that as written, that is not a true statement.
In the D. June article, I saw no particular problem, but I would be interested in knowing how they came up with the 1880 manufacture date.
On a different note, at the 2006 Old Threshers Reunion, I saw one of the Ogden Publications editors taking photos and doing a brief interview about a portable Rumely engine that was claimed to be the oldest known Rumely steam engine. I hoped to see an article in Steam Traction on the history and technical aspects of this engine. I think such an article would be interesting and I encourage you to do it.
Editor’s note: Loren is correct, the photo on page 5 of the Winter 2007 issue is a grain binder. Our apologies regarding the grain reaper and any confusion it may have caused.
Loren is also correct in noting our unclear wording on the Huber. On page 22 of this issue Bill Vossler’s article, “Harrison Machine Works 20 HP Jumbo,” has information regarding the 1910 Huber steam engine. Owner Leroy McClure says the engine is the only known 30 HP double-cylinder Huber, not the only known double-cylinder engine.
And finally, look for an article on the horse-drawn portable Rumely in the March 2007 issue of our sister publication, Farm Collector.
Ron Harris, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. (e-mail: email@example.com), came across two interesting photos. Ron writes:
I am inserting two photos (see the image gallery) taken about 1910. Can anyone tell me the make and model of each? And what is the mechanism on the front left of the engine pulling a separator? It looks like a circular saw. One man told me it was part of the steering, but it doesn’t look like that to me. These photos were taken just west of McGregor (60 miles north of Dubuque, Iowa) and near Froelich, Iowa, the site of the invention of the first gasoline engine tractor. The photographer was Rev. Carl Allert (1848-1932).
I had Peerless and Rumely suggested to me as possible makes of the engines. Someone told me the Peerless had a “gear” logo on the front.
In the article “Art and Harvest,” page 23, Winter 2007 issue, the photo of Thomas Hart Benton’s Threshing Wheat was inadvertently reversed. The photo in the image gallery shows the correct view.
If you have a comment, question or reminiscence for Past and Present, please send it along to: Steam Traction, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org